Food and sleep are the two essential life sources and complement each other in a constant cycle. The body uses the food we eat to fuel the body, and uses the time we sleep, along with nutrients derived from foods we eat, to carry out essential maintenance and repair.
To achieve optimum health and well-being, it is important that we eat and sleep in accordance with the way the body was designed by Mother Nature.
It isn’t easy in a world that disrupts our healthy eating intentions with long working hours and a busy personal life supporting the family and socializing with friends, nor is it easy to sleep well amidst high-stress levels, late nights, artificial lighting, computers and constant mental stimulation.
There are certain foods that act as both a good source of energy and as a promoter of sleep. You’ll find numerous contradictory examples, in books and on the Internet, of foods cited on one hand as a great source of energy, and on the other as a great sleep booster.
For example, complex carbohydrates like bananas and whole grains provide slow-release energy during the day, but also act as sleep enhancers in the evening because they increase serotonin levels.
This is possible because of the way in which the body’s circadian rhythms (biological processes) react to different food sources at different times of the day.
Where sleep is concerned, the healthier a person’s sleep-wake cycle and diet, which essentially means the better aligned their eating and sleeping habits are with Mother Nature, the less sensitive they will be to eating sleep-inhibiting foods and drinks before bedtime.
This is because the body will already be in a healthy cycle of producing the necessary hormones for sleep at around the same time each night.
FOODS FOR SLEEP
THE POWERFUL FOOD LETTUCE
One of the most powerful and little known dual-purpose foods is lettuce. Due to its macronutrient content (fat, carbohydrates, and protein), lettuce, particularly the romaine variety, serves as a great energy resource.
But don’t worry about eating lettuce in the evening, because research has proven that it promotes sleep due to an opium-related substance found within its genetic makeup.
The opium effect is enhanced by traces of the anti-cramping (relaxing) agent hyoscyamine. Lettuce also contains niacin (vitamin B3), which research has shown is involved in serotonin synthesis.
Another example of a dual-purpose food is milk. Milk is capable of perking you up in the morning because it contains B vitamins such as B-12, niacin, and riboflavin, which are necessary for converting food to energy for exercising muscles.
On the other hand, the old suggestion of a glass of warm milk to make you sleep better is half true, except that it doesn’t matter whether the milk is warm or not; the heat just makes you feel cozy.
The real reason milk has the potential to make you sleep better is because it contains tryptophan, which is essential for serotonin production – when the body converts tryptophan to serotonin, it induces sleep by triggering melatonin production.
FOOD THAT CONTAINS TRYPTOPHAN
There are a number of other foods containing tryptophan that you can incorporate into your meals to promote deeper, more restful sleep.
- EGGS (a single egg contains more than 500g of tryptophan).
- FISH (salmon, COD, and perch are all high in tryptophan).
- SOY MILK
- COCONUT MILK
- WHOLE GRAIN CRACKER
- NUT BUTTER
PROTEIN THAT CREATES PROBLEMS
Protein is an essential part of the human diet and is responsible for a large part of the body’s internal repair work, much of which happens when we are asleep.
However, protein can disturb sleep by blocking the synthesis of serotonin, which in turn stops the body producing the melatonin we require to sleep.
For this reason, you should stop consuming protein at least 2-3 hours before you intend to sleep, especially protein-rich meats like chicken, turkey, and beef.
That said; both fish and poultry are high in vitamin B3 (niacin – involved in serotonin synthesis), so although you shouldn’t eat protein-rich foods before attempting to sleep, you can make fish and poultry a staple feature of your early evening meal.
This may sound somewhat contradictory, but as mentioned previously, the body reacts to different foods at different times of the day.
COFFEE-GOOD OR BAD
Studies have shown that coffee has numerous benefits, including lowering the risk of prostate cancer in men and endometrial cancer in women and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia, therefore but coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant known to disrupt sleep, therefore, be limited to morning consumption only.
Doing so will give the body adequate time to flush the caffeine out of your system before bedtime. Certainly don’t consume caffeine later than 3 p.m.; this includes caffeinated soda and the majority of sports endurance and energy drinks.
While coffee has considerable benefits, it is potentially addictive for those not getting a healthy amount of sleep.
A 2009 study conducted by the National University of Seoul and Dresden Medical School showed that the smell of coffee alleviated the stress of sleep-deprived rats.
When we aren’t getting enough sleep, cortisol levels rise in the body – cortisol is known as the stress hormone.
This helps to explain why people feel compelled to drink coffee when they feel tired because it tempers feelings of anxiety and jumpiness caused by increased cortisol production in the body.
Keep coffee consumption to a sensible level. Overconsumption will affect sleep quality and may cause headaches, nausea and withdrawal symptoms.
If you are a bit of a coffee addict who likes an afternoon cup too, try a cup of green tea instead, which contains half the caffeine content of coffee (20mg per cup).
Remember that with the exception of herbal teas, the majority of teas contain caffeine, and therefore should not be consumed in the late afternoon and evening.
If you are experiencing poor sleep health, it is best to completely avoid alcohol before bed. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it causes shallow sleep and multiple awakenings in the latter stages of sleep, leaving you feeling tired in the morning.
Alcohol can also intensify sleep-related breathing disturbances such as snoring. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which may cause intermittent waking as you become increasingly thirsty.
Using alcohol to induce sleep is potentially as addictive as using sleeping pills, so, by all means, enjoy a drink now and again, but don’t make it a habit before bed.
Smoking isn’t a food, But it’s still something many people do, particularly after eating a meal. If you do smoke, it’s important to understand that while smoking is perceived by many to be a relaxant, the nicotine in cigarettes is actually a neurostimulator capable of disrupting sleep.
Smoking prior to going to sleep can prevent a person entering the deeper stages of restorative sleep, and the brain stimulation caused by nicotine may also trigger intermittent waking.
If you are a smoker with no plans to stop, and you are having difficulty sleeping, then try stopping smoking at least two hours before bed. If you find this manageable, try increasing the time frame to four hours.
It is important not to consume too much liquid before bed. Drinking too much in the evening is one of the most common causes of sleep disturbance.
If you have consumed adequate water throughout the day, you should be able to comfortably stop drinking at least an hour before going to bed.
However, if you enjoy ending the day with a hot drink, make sure you do so sensibly by avoiding sugary drinks like hot chocolate, and fizzy drinks that will cause you to feel bloated and restless.
Stick to consuming herbal teas like ginger, mint and chamomile tea in the evening, the latter being renowned for its calming properties.
Also consider trying lettuce tea, a somewhat rare choice, but one that will induce a similar natural sedative-like effect to chamomile, albeit slightly more powerful.
Another great and largely unknown bedtime drink is Jiaogulan tea, known in Southern China as the tea of immortality.
Jiaogulan is renowned for its ability to regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, build immunity, delay the aging process, prevent cells from becoming cancerous and cure insomnia.
It contains no caffeine, making it ideal for an evening drink that’s similar in flavor to green tea. T
he key rules when it comes to drinking before bed is not to drink too much and to avoid caffeine-based drinks, fizzy drinks, and alcoholic drinks, as well as any other drink that will stimulate rather than relax the brain.
What is your pre-bed time routine to get a deep and peaceful sleep? Have you ever experienced insomnia and then found ways to beat them naturally?
Feel free to share the experience or the routine with us 🙂
Disclaimer: Some of the links in the post are affiliate links, and if you purchase through my links, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support the work of The Holistic Radiant, and it is much appreciated! 🙂